Appear provides low latency video contribution links for the VAR system for live football matches around the globe
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, used for reviewing footage of contested incidents during sporting events, is one of the most demanding applications in live sports. VAR requires ultra-low latency video links between the cameras on the pitch, and the remote facility Video Operations Room (VOR), which hosts the assistant referees. The availability of these video links is critical—VAR video footage can be needed at any time during a sporting event.
At least two leading production companies in three continents have deployed Appear’s technology to deliver VAR for professional football leagues and national tournaments.
For VAR, ultra-low latency and reliability are critical. Footage from multiple cameras on the sides of the pitch needs to make its way to the VOR, where multiple camera feeds are aggregated. This content is then sent back to the pitch side, where a referee can analyse the footage and make a judgement on the incident in question.
Ultra-low latency video contribution links are integral to VAR, to ensure content makes its way from the camera to the VOR, and back to the pitch, in a matter of seconds, so that a referee can make a decision in as close to real-time as possible.
Reliability is also critical for video contribution links—not only because VAR can be requested any time during a football match, but because VAR can impact the whole game—a video connection failing at a crucial moment could make the difference between a team winning or losing.
To deliver on the latency and availability requirements of VAR, production companies need video contribution technology that supports multiple camera feeds, delivers content with ultra-low latency and in high quality, ensures reliability and eliminates down-time, and does so in a solution that can be used within an outside broadcast (OB) van and at a remote production site, where space is limited.
Appear’s X20 Platform was the perfect solution for the production companies supporting VAR at international live football matches. The single chassis, which was deployed within the OB van, was able to encode more than 20 camera feeds simultaneously, and transmit these feeds over IP to the VOR.
The X20 was able to deliver live video content in high quality, with little to no delay, all while using minimal bandwidth.
Appear’s X20 Platform was selected by the production companies because of its significant video processing capacity, as well as for its redundancy capabilities. With channel density and its ability to combine encoding and decoding of multiple formats in the same chassis, the X20 was able to provide superlative video quality, all while ensuring the highest availability.
While the production companies were using the X20 Platform for video contribution links for VAR, the X Platform has been an ideal solution because these companies have been able to use the solution to support remote production during COVID-19—something these production companies have seen an increasing demand since the pandemic hit. Because the X20 can support multiple formats, including high efficiency video encoding (HEVC) and uncompressed video, customers can scale and add capabilities depending on their needs. In this instance, by adding more channels, the production companies have been given the flexibility to support remote production, all within a single chassis.
The X Platform is also compact and highly power efficient solution. It requires minimal rack space, and its power efficiency not only reduces operational expenditure, but also makes the X Platform more sustainable. The platform’s all-in-one design and small form-factor makes it simple to deploy and powerful in capability.
The platform’s physically robust design, along with the quality of the hardware, ensures live broadcasts remain stable, while built-in redundancy also ensures reliability.
The production companies have been using Appear’s X20 Platform to deliver the low latency contribution links for VAR since the 2018-2019 football season, in topflight professional football leagues in countries like Spain, Greece, France, Thailand and in national tournaments in the Americas.
As a result of proven reliability, and thanks to the scalability of the system, the X20 Platform has also been used to provide light-compression contribution links for remote production in some of these matches.